Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Repost: Heather Wilhelm Comments on Emma Watson's UN Speech

The following article written by Heather Wilhelm for The Federalist (http://thefederalist.com/) is a very astute commentary on Emma Watson's UN speech and the present condition of feminism.

Source: Heather Wilhelm, "Emma Watson and the Chamber of Feminist Conundrums," The Federalist, September 25, 2014, accessed September 30, 2014, http://thefederalist.com/2014/09/25/emma-watson-and-the-chamber-of-feminist-conundrums/.


Ignoring the Elephants

Again, this is all great, in theory. I mean, who likes violence or discrimination against women? But wait: a bunch of UN members apparently do. Iran seems to like it, as a nation that regularly stones rape victims. Sudan regularly enforces the practices of child marriage and ritual female genital mutilation. China’s official state policies encourage countless sex-selective, anti-female abortions every year. I could go on and on. The plight of many women worldwide is really quite unbelievable and sad, and it makes me feel lucky to be an American.

When I read the glowing reviews of Watson’s address to that sprawling, international body—Vanity Fair called the speech “game-changing,” People magazine called it “powerful,” and CNN called it “moving”—I was sure she let loose, unflinching, setting these countries straight regarding their supporting role in the real-world, epic oppression of women.

If you’ve been following modern feminism for a while, I don’t even need to tell you I’m joshing. While Watson, to her credit, did give a few shout-outs to actual oppression around the globe—child brides and uneducated girls in Africa, specifically, along with an admission that “not all women have received the same rights I have”—her speech was an unfortunate reflection of the “we’re all victims,” zero-sense-of-proportion mishmash that makes up modern Western feminism.

Watson’s First-World Problems

If you don’t believe me, here is what Emma Watson, Hollywood actress, actually complained about before a body of 192 member states, some which have more terrifying dictatorships than others: 1. She was called “bossy” as a child; 2. She was sexualized by the media as a young movie star; 3. Many of her girlfriends quit their sports teams because they didn’t want to grow muscles; 4. Many of her teenage male friends, being teenage males, were unable to express their feelings.

Remember how Beyonce had that “FEMINIST” sign behind her at the MTV Video Music Awards? At times, I’m sorry to say, Watson kind of needed a giant “FIRST-WORLD PROBLEMS” sign behind her at this UN speech. “I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts,” Watson continued. “I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body.” (Here, of course, was a bout of wild applause.) “I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life.” (Good thing all women think the same!)

“But, sadly,” Watson continued, “I can say there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to see these rights.” This line, while patently absurd, was also actually quite genius, as it made everyone at the UN feel pretty darn good about themselves. I personally picture Kim Jung Un in his weird little suit, stray donut crumbs on his face, looking around and thinking, “Hey, nobody’s done it! We can’t feel that bad!” Yes, I know he wasn’t really there, but it is little wonder Watson got a standing ovation at the end of her speech.

Unfortunately, modern feminism is not, at least in the West, as Watson described it. It is not a simple quest for equal opportunity, nor is it basic common sense. It is a religion with very clear tenets—abortion, leftist politics, victimhood, and an ever-morphing “gender spectrum”—and if you don’t accept each one of these tenets, no questions asked, you’re out, sister.

This is disappointing, because it’s clear Watson is an intelligent woman who means well. It’s also difficult to substantively criticize feminism these days, given that crazy narratives—and crazy people—often emerge on the Intertubes. On Monday, the world was aghast to hear that users of the hacker website 4Chan were “retaliating” against Watson by threatening to leak nude photos. On Wednesday, a lesser portion of the world was aghast to learn that the nude photo threat was actually an awful, tasteless hoax, designed to get traffic for some weirdo marketing group—a group that also, according to some reports, might somehow be fake. You can see how it’s easy to get derailed. Also, people are crazy.

But here’s the thing: You can object to modern, pre-packaged “feminism” and not be crazy. You can support women while taking left-wing talking points with a grain of salt. You can understand that free markets have lifted more women out of poverty across the world than any government program. You can believe in justice, freedom, and empowerment and not obsess about sex and gender. Feminists, of course, never like to do this last one. It would put them—or at least their current modus operandi—right out of business.

Time Does Not Confer Validity

Non firmatur tractu temporis quod de iure ab initio non subsistit. “What is null at the start does not become valid with the passage of time” (Regula Iuris XVIII [1298]).


Source: Dr. Edward Peters, "What to Know Before Asserting That a Typical Annulment ‘Makes No Sense’," In the Light of the Law, September 30, 2014, accessed September 30, 2014, http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/what-to-know-before-asserting-that-a-typical-annulment-makes-no-sense/.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Faith Changes Our Relations

Faith changes our relations with each other and ought to make us aware of these changes.

By faith we come to realize that how we treat others is not only how we treat Christ but how we treat ourselves, for we are all connected mystically by grace into the Body of Christ. Hence the second great commandment is that we love our neighbors as ourselves. Why? Because as we love our neighbors, so do we love ourselves.

Actually, we can know this principle even without divine revelation. We see that the unconscious reflects the Other and projects ourselves into the Other. How we treat others, then, unconsciously reflects and projects how we treat ourselves and wish to be treated. Hence if we wish to receive qualities of patience, consideration, and generosity, we ought to give these out and practice them ourselves.

Amazingly, divine revelation has taken this psychological-social dynamic and elevated it through grace, showing us that our relations are more profound than we ever believed. This is why sin can never be isolated, and to believe that my personal actions and choices in private do not affect others betrays a lack of faith and a lack of understanding of the unconscious. Everything I do creates and changes my relations with others, both in the natural and supernatural realms.

In this phenomenon we can also find one reason for the spiritual and psychological stagnation of so many people: they do not put in the effort to treat others in such a way as to reveal to themselves their earnest desire for transformation through virtue. The very effort to act virtuously works as a signal that effectively mobilizes the unconscious forces to cooperate with grace such that even if the initial attempts of a beginner are filled with failure and imperfections the process of spiritual transformation is nevertheless truly begun. The effort to treat others in a saintly way stimulates one to become actually a saint and to encourage others to become likewise. It in a certain sense gives permission to oneself to become holy, to let go of old habits of behavior.

Questioning the Our Father

Our Lord gave us the Our Father, the most beautiful and perfect expression of prayer possible in any human language. It begins by addressing God as "Our Father." Can we believe that this expression was arbitrary or ruled by cultural biases? Isn't such a doubt precisely that—a lack of faith in the divinity and hence the transcendence of Christ, the God-Man who unites all mankind and culture in Himself perfectly, transcending every divide, even the divides of sin and death? Is it possible that the Man who came to give us life to the full should stifle the potential growth of the spiritual life of so many because He chose a culturally-relative term rooted in Patriarchy?

Rather, if we take seriously that Jesus is God, that His self-consciousness included the divinity in all of its clarity and comprehension, and if we take seriously that God's perfections are the eminent expression of all transcendental qualities in the created order (or rather that the created order shares in and reflects these qualities that find their perfect source and expression in God's nature), then ultimately the implication of calling God our Father is that paternity finds its perfect expression in God the Father, and all fatherhood is a model of God's Fatherhood (à la Platonic philosophy).

Since the Bible uses maternal expressions, pronouns, and descriptors for God, we must also hold that maternity somehow finds its perfect expression in the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, the giver and the receiver, the male and female, the yin and the yang (to be a bit bold). Fr. Norris Clarke, S.J., explored this dimension of being's self-fecundity: all being is in itself, from another, and towards another (esse in, esse ab, esse ad).

We need to examine and understand seriously the implications of calling God our Father and that God Himself has told us to do so: the implications for the Church as a Bride of Christ, creation as a "palace for the Bride" as St. John of the Cross so beautifully put it, for each individual in relation to God, for the life of the Trinity. God bridges the infinite gap between fallen creation and Himself, and therefore He determines its parameters. Isn't it, then, a lack of faith that makes one question the validity of calling God a Father? It betrays an uncritical commitment to a specific modern, Western ideology that comes, actually and shockingly, at the expense of and to the detriment of faith.

The final reflection is that God is the universal cause who reveals Himself in the particulars of history. We are scandalized at the particularity of the Israelites—so-called chosen by God. We are scandalized by the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. We are scandalized by the origins of the Church and that it is headed on earth by a man who resides in Italy. We are scandalized that God would speak to us in our own language, adopting and purifying our own expressions so as to return them to their true referent in Himself. This is the scandal of particularity through which God has willed to reveal Himself. Shouldn't we accept it out of unquestioning faith?

Repost: Ed West on the "Blank Slate" of Human Nature

Great article from http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100177038/a-decade-after-steven-pinkers-the-blank-slate-why-is-human-nature-still-taboo/.

Source: Ed West, "A Decade After Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, Why is Human Nature Still Taboo?," The Telegraph, August 17, 2012, accessed September 29, 2014, http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100177038/a-decade-after-steven-pinkers-the-blank-slate-why-is-human-nature-still-taboo/.


It is hard to know whether Julian Savulescu’s suggestion that we have a “moral obligation” to engineer babies will help push the overton window towards a new and more frightening era of eugenics, or will arouse enough revulsion to make people take the threat seriously.

But one thing is for certain – it’s a good thing we live in a society where Savulescu can make such comments, and though I find the idea morally reprehensible, there is nothing reprehensible in itself in suggesting ways of tackling societal problems such as violence, nor of testing a moral taboo.

The issue of taboos is a central aspect of perhaps the most important book to be published in this still young century, Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, which came out ten years ago next month.

In it Pinker mentions a study that “asked about a hospital administrator who had to decide whether to spend a million dollars on a liver transplant for a child or use it on other hospital needs”, and which found that “not only did respondents want to punish an administrator who chose to spend the money on the hospital, they wanted to punish an administrator who chose to save the child but thought for a long time before making the decision”.

That’s why people don’t touch taboos; yet as Pinker argued in the book, the great taboo of today is that of human nature and the blank slate is a sacred doctrine. Despite the book's impact, 10 years later the blank-slate model of human nature is still routinely discussed as fact, rather than fantasy, and continues to have serious implications for society (one of which may be that we are rushing towards the sort of projects suggested by Saveluscu).

The blank slate doctrine affects almost every area of our lives. Take, for example, recent moves in Ireland to set quotas on women in politics, a move that is moderate compared to quota systems already implemented in Scandinavia. Whether one thinks this is right or not, what is wrong is that the starting premise is a totally pseudoscientific view of human nature – gender feminism.

As Pinker wrote, there are two types of feminism: “Equity feminism is a moral doctrine about equal treatment that makes no commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology. Gender feminism is an empirical doctrine committed to three claims about human nature. The first is that the differences between men and women have nothing to do with biology but are socially constructed in their entirety. The second is that humans possess a single social motive – power – and that social life can be understood only in terms of how it is exercised. The third is that human interactions arise not from the motives of people dealing with each other as individuals but from the motives of groups dealing with other groups – in this case, the male gender dominating the female gender.

“In embracing these doctrines, the genderists are handcuffing feminism to railroad tracks on which a train is bearing down.”

Gender feminism is no more scientific than astrology, yet the idea of total equality of outcomes is still some sort of vague official goal among the European elite, largely because “people’s unwillingness to think in statistical terms has led to pointless false dichotomies", between "women are unqualified" and "fifty-fifty absolutely".

The end result of gender feminism has been the blackening of the name feminist, which many women and men deny because they associate it with radical, unscientific ideas about “gender” being a “social construct”, ideas which are still taught as fact in British universities despite being as factual as creationism.

Then there is the false dichotomy about nature and nurture in child-raising. In education, for instance, public debate still revolves around the idea that intelligence is environmental, when all available evidence suggests that it is between 50 and 80 per cent nature. So when Chris Woodhead made the point that children from higher socio-economic backgrounds are, on average, cleverer, his views were considered outrageous.

Of course there are environmental factors that disadvantage poorer children, and these should be addressed, just as there are ways in which women can be given more choice in their careers, but that is the point of Pinker’s book – accepting human nature does not necessary mean embracing any ideology. The Harvard professor is no polemicist and he leaves readers to draw their own conclusions. Being a conservative, liberal or socialist are all legitimate stances, depending on what priorities one favours (stability, freedom or equality). But what is not legitimate is forcing debate to revolve around false facts.


And that is exactly how advocates of the blank slate have come to dominate the public sphere for so long, and why terrible decisions have been made by public officials, based on faulty data.

As Pinker recalls: “Research on human nature would be controversial in any era, but the new science picked a particularly bad decade in which to attract the spotlight. In the 1970s many intellectuals had become political radicals. Marxism was correct, liberalism was for wimps, and Marx had pronounced that ‘the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class’. The traditional misgivings about human nature were folded into a hard-left ideology, and scientists who examined the human mind in a biological context were now considered tools of a reactionary establishment.”

So Richard Herrnstein was called a racist for arguing, in 1971, that “since differences in intelligence are partly inherited, and since intelligent people tend to marry other intelligent people, when a society becomes more just it will also become more stratified along genetic lines”, even though he was not even discussing race. He received death threats and his lecture halls were filled with chanting mobs.

Then there was EO Wilson, whose Sociobiology concluded that some universals, including the moral sense, may come from a human nature shaped by natural selection. The aim of the book was to describe things such as violence and altruism through evolution, yet a widely-read article by a group of academics accused him of promoting theories that “led to the establishment of gas chambers in Nazi Germany”.

As Pinker says: “The accusation that Wilson (a lifelong liberal Democrat) was led by personal prejudice to defend racism, sexism, inequality, slavery and genocide was especially unfair – and irresponsible, because Wilson became a target of vilification and harassment by people who read the manifesto but not the book.”

Other controversies down the years included the unmasking of the myth of the noble savage, with scientists who found murder rates in pre-agriculture societies were astonishingly high accused of justifying genocide; and rape, which gender feminists believed was not about sex, despite clearly being about sex.

The latter has been especially tragic because of the moral imperative behind the study of rape – to reduce its occurrence. As Pinker wrote: “Any scientist who illuminates the causes of rape deserves our admiration, like a medical researcher who illuminates the cause of a disease, because understanding an affliction is the first step towards eliminating it. And since no one acquires the truth by divine revelation, we must also respect those who explore theories that may turn out to be incorrect. Moral criticism would seen to be in order only for those who would enforce dogmas, ignore evidence, or shut down research, because they would be protecting their reputations at the expense of victims of rape that might not have occurred if we understood the phenomenon better.”

That, unfortunately, is how orthodoxies are enforced across a range of subjects, despite being incredibly weak. On the idea that intelligence is entirely environment [sic], Pinker wrote that “even in the 1970s the argument was tortuous, but by the 1980s it was desperate and today it is a historical curiosity”. And yet now, in the second decade of the 21st century, it is still not considered decent to question the taboo about human nature when it comes to policy.

But just as the good name of feminism has been stigmatised by its radical wing, the whole of the social sciences have been damaged by the blank-slate orthodoxy, which has led to widespread anti-intellectualism, since the public at large come to view academia as a font of convenient untruths and agenda-driven nonsense (or to use the popular phrase, political correctness). Worst of all it has actually made it harder to help the most vulnerable, because we fail to take account of the fact that some people are less smart than others or, as Savulescu pointed out, more prone to vice or violence; and it has even made society less sympathetic to people who, because they have been less blessed by nature, lose out in the rat race.

A decade after The Blank Slate, why is human nature still taboo?

Repost: Andrew Clavan on Microaggression on College Campuses

This is pretty funny. It satirizes first-world problems.

Repost: Andrew Klavan on Conversation Enders

Although this video has a clear political bias, it very humorously and accurately describes a few phrases and labels used to stop rational conversation, a practice and impulse that obviously embraces people of any political background. It is human nature to return to unreflective states of being.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas on Rationalizing Sexual Hedonsim

For know you this and understand: that no fornicator or unclean or covetous person, which is a serving of idols, hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of despair. Be ye not therefore partakers with them. (Eph. 5:5–7)
The Apostle above forbade carnal sins (5:3); here he threatens them with the penalty of damnation that is inflicted on sinners. [...]

He states For know you this and understand, that is, be actually certain of it and not just habitually. “These things I write to you that you may know that you have eternal life; you who believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn. 5:13). And what does he write? That no fornicator or unclean or covetous person, which is a serving of idols, hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Notice that he calls covetousness idolatry, for idolatry happens when the honor due God alone is given to creatures. Now there is a twofold honor due God; we must establish him as the goal of our life and we must put our trust of reaching the goal in him. Hence, whoever places these ‘in creatures is guilty of idolatry. A covetous person commits this when he fixes his end in a created reality as well as putting all his trust in it. “Of their silver and their gold they have made idols to themselves, that they might perish” (Os. 8:4). This happens since, as Proverbs 11 (28) affirms: “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall.” [...]

Notice that only in reference to carnal vices does he teach them to avoid being deceived. For from the beginning men have rationalized to find reasons why fornication and other venereal sins were not really sins so that they might indulge their cupidity without restraint. Hence he states vain words since words that claim these are not sins and do not exclude one from the kingdom of God and of Christ are irrational. “Beware lest any man cheat you by prophecy and vain deceit” (Col. 2:8).”

He demonstrates that such men are deceivers and their words fallacious since, if carnal sins were not sins, they would not be punished by God; God is just and does not impose a penalty where there is no offense. But such acts are punished by God and therefore are sins. He proves the minor when he says For because of these things comes the anger of God, namely, on account of carnal sins, upon the children of despair. This is evident in the flood (Gen. 7), in what happened to the Sodomites (Gen. 19); and again, almost the whole tribe of Benjamin was destroyed on account of this (Jg. 19 & 20).

He says the children of despair because those who sin in this way despair of eternal life. If they acted this way and still hoped for eternal life, it would rather be presumption than hope, which is the certain expectation of obtaining future beatitude meritoriously.


Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, trans. by Matthew L. Lamb (Albany, NY: Magis Books, 1966), Dominican House of Studies website, accessed Sept. 23, 2014, http://dhspriory.org/thomas/Eph5.htm#3, 5.3.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Emma Watson & What Feminism Is

Emma Watson's UN speech was very articulate and surprisingly moving. A few comments to follow not necessarily on the speech but inspired by it. A prefatory comment, however, is required: to examine and question feminism critically is not in this context meant to denigrate women. That should go without saying, but unfortunately, such uncharitable antipathy happens enough that a preface is warranted.

If feminism is "by definition" the belief that in all cultural affairs (e.g. political, social, religious, economic, etc.) men and women should have equal rights and opportunities and that both sexes are equal (but with respect to what, this equality remains undefined), then the strange situation, which Watson even mentions towards the end of her speech, occurs in which people were feminists before ever self identifying as such (or ever could do so at all)—so-called "inadvertent feminists"—or in which people, after the fact of feminism, wish to maintain the belief that feminism purportedly upholds as defined above without accepting the label of feminist.

What is to be made of this strange alienation and tension? Perhaps it may be that there is a difference between feminism "actually" and the written definition of feminism, that feminism in its totality encompasses more than what it supposedly pursues or self identifies, that feminism has the "baggage" of additional, invisible cultural signifiers that, for good or for ill, make it somewhat if not very unappealing to those who otherwise subscribe to the core belief that feminism seeks to promote, namely, the equality of the sexes.

Perhaps the very ambiguity of the notion of equality, which not only I but many have explored, creates hesitation to accept a label that has capitalized, in some cases unconsciously and in others, consciously, on this ambiguity. This embrace of the ambiguity of a notion of equality has incorporated pursuing ends through various means that I, like others, have found objectionable. Perhaps not only have the means been found wanting but the ends as well. Perhaps because a precise notion of the end of feminism (i.e. its goal/purpose and not its annihilation) and the means entailed by this end cannot be settled or have yet to be settled in the political sphere that I, like others, have hesitated to embrace the label of feminist. (Full self disclosure here, however: I would say the only labels that ultimately matter—and hence the only label that I really consistently apply to myself—are the labels of the holy and the not-yet-holy [I fall under this one] that are best encapsulated by incorporation into the Catholic Church through Baptism and faith, i.e. becoming a committed Catholic, but this is for another discussion.)

Furthermore, generalizations must be made because the culture as such generalizes about feminism; this is the unescapable reality of this movement. Indeed, whether one likes it or not, feminism is a political movement that transcends all of its sub-groups and sub-purposes; it is a mass signifier under the control of the Other. As such feminism must and always remain a generalization, and the less sophisticated (this is not to call them unintelligent; perhaps "naive" or better yet "innocent" would be better than "less sophisticated") self-identifying feminists will always resent this association that is out of their control. (Of course, the real solution then would be to give up the identity and retain the core so as to escape being associated and compartmentalized before one has even finished a sentence; yes, the assumption here is that I see no hope in rescuing the notion of feminism from how it has evolved to its present form, nor do I quite see the practical point in making the effort to do so.)

Finally, the difficulty of generalization and its cultural utility and reason for its go-to is because one is frequently met with comments such as, "For me, feminism is..." If feminism possesses the shades of every individual, then feminism as such is being used as a generalization by the very people who resent its being used as a generalization. The line must be settled: is there a difference in kind or degree among these feminisms, and how shall this difference be adjudicated?

Thus the question must be asked as it is being asked: what really is feminism? Is it simply the assertion of gender and sexual equality? What does this equality entail and why? Etc.

Emma Watson is right in this respect: feminism is culturally associated with aggressiveness, anger, hostility if not hatred towards and of men, a certain subversiveness, etc. This association transcends the power of any individual or even corporate body to control; like almost every other cultural signifier, its deep channels and chains of signification have become mostly cemented in the popular mind, for good or for ill (Watson would say for ill).

Furthermore, Watson is right when she asserts that what is important is not the word "feminism" but the "idea and ambition behind it," i.e. the reality, the impulse, the intention both individual and corporate that works for this goal of gender equality. But what is the implication of accepting this proposition that the reality is more important than the word? Perhaps Watson has overlooked that feminism—the word—has been swept up off of its own feet, out of the hands of feminists and into the public forum as more than the ambition that originally inspired it. Perhaps now the word feminism signifies not just the "idea and ambition" of the most genuine and noble feminists but everything else that is disingenuous and ignoble about the movement. One must ask Watson why she would still accept the label of feminist even after having conceded the foundational premise that leads to the above conclusions. If she is committed to the core reality of feminism and not the word and understands that the word has come to be associated with many negatives, why still push the word feminism and apply it as a personal label?

I really must stress the notion of equality with respect to what because without this clarification, the discussion can never go anywhere. All animals naturally and on the most fundamental level sort objects of experience according to a threefold schema of 1) favorable; 2) unfavorable; or 3) indifferent. Objects are thus sorted unequally. Equality with respect to this schema could mean, and I'm giving only a few variations as examples, every object is treated according only to 1), 2) or 3), or it could mean that the same number of objects are divided equally into all three categories.

Furthermore, as animals we participate in any number of simple-to-complex social games. E.g., a man walks into a bar (this isn't a joke) to find a woman to hit on, and the two are already playing a game before the man ever enters. The game is by nature zero-sum, and men and women alike will experience both rejection and acceptance. What would equality look like in such a situation? What of other games? How far down the rabbit hole does this analysis and application go? Should it go there? Who shall enforce it? How shall it be enforced?

Perhaps these last examples may be called red herrings, but I bring them up simply to draw attention to the original point that equality with respect to what is not a self-evident notion. It is heuristic and requires deep and continued reflection and dialogue. Its application is as diverse as relationality itself.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger on Degrading the Traditional Latin Mass

I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won’t it proscribe tomorrow what it prescribes today?


Source: Joseph Card. Ratzinger and Peter Seewald, Salt of the Earth, trans. by Adrian Walker (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1997), 176–177.


For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her present if things are that way? I must say, quite openly, that I don’t understand why so many of my episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for no apparent reason is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliations within the Church.


Source: Joseph Card. Ratzinger and Peter Seewald, God and the World, trans. by Henry Taylor (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2002), 416.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Repost: Padre Pio on Distractions in Mental Prayer

If you do not succeed in meditating well, do not give up doing your duty. If the distractions are numerous, do not be discouraged; do the meditation of patience, and you will still profit. Decide upon the length of your meditation, and do not leave your place before finishing, even if you have to be crucified... Why do you worry so much because you do not know how to meditate as you would like? Meditation is a means to attaining God, but it is not a goal in itself. Meditation aims at the love of God and neighbor. Love God with all your soul without reserve, and love your neighbor as yourself, and you will have accomplished half of your meditation.


Source: Fr. Jean, "Padre Pio," SSPX Website, accessed Sept. 21, 2014, http://archives.sspx.org/miscellaneous/padre_pio.htm.

Individualism, Social Justice, and Boundaries

Is there an intrinsic tension between upholding concern for others through social justice causes and the insistent maintenance of an individualistic mindset, especially one manifested through the assertion of personal identity that is apathetic to the reaction of the other?

Can one insist that people should care about a certain cause while simultaneously insisting that one can do what one wants, when one wants, how one wants?

Or perhaps concern for others ultimately comes at a price to pure individuality, to the notion that we are atoms randomly bouncing into each other. Perhaps concern for others ultimately means that boundaries, while necessary, are not "dogmas" and that a boundary must serve a person and not vice versa.

Local culture vs. Universalization

The tendency of American culture is still readily situated within and geared towards industrialization: mass production, the lowest common denominator, selling to "everyone" by flattening the product enough to make it appealing to the average, the masses. This tendency is seen especially in the difference between musicians authentically rooted in the context of a genre, pursuing and perfecting their work here professionally and with technical precision vs. popular musicians, which takes all that is universal in each genre and flattens it to make it appealing to the masses.

Local—folk—culture is broadcast and universalized; this is the great angst of the hipster. Specific, local fashions become available at J.C. Penny.

Perhaps this tendency also has contributed to the so-called "desacralization of the sacred." For example, Gregorian chant exists for the liturgy. Now, it is available on Pandora, audio CDs (even among so-called "Traditionalist" religious who pride themselves on preserving Sacred Tradition and the sense of the sacred lost in Modernist culture, especially post-Vatican II Catholic culture), and YouTube for casual listening. It appears in a gimmicked form in movie soundtracks and documentaries. The desire to make this form of music popular comes at the price of its very purpose and soul.

On the other hand, there is a growing movement within Western culture to appreciate the unique, the niche, the specific. Businesses that insist on doing things a specific way even if it means that potential profit is lost—these attract attention and spread through word of mouth; these businesses thrive on connection and relation.

Perhaps, then, it is through relation, through connection, through the insistence on the unique soul of a particular thing that it will find its authentic vehicle for spreading and becoming appreciated for what it truly is. The sacred can hence remain as such without sacrificing itself.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Real Enemies of Enlightenment Progress

According to Enlightenment ways of thinking, real progress is impeded by thoughtlessness. Thoughtlessness crosses all boundaries, religious, political, cultural, moral, etc.

Awareness, thoughtfulness, and reflection are the conditions for intellectual growth.


Enlightenment progress is only one form of progress, however, and a very limited and skewed one. Real progress is ultimately spiritual, either towards God or away from Him, and this progress is impeded only by sin.

Nevertheless, awareness, thoughtfulness, and reflection are still conditions to grow spiritually and avoid sin through the exercise of prudence.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Memo: The Spirituality of Organ & Humanities

I want to begin considering what a "spirituality of organ music" may be like, for the organist, for the listener, for the public at large. It may perhaps touch on the spirituality of music itself and its relation to man's desire for beauty, etc.

Source: Elijah Ho, "Interview with Organist Paul Jacobs," Examiner, February 16, 2014, accessed September 29, 2014, http://www.examiner.com/article/interview-with-organist-paul-jacobs.

From the interview above:
We place great emphasis on our financial, physical, and mental well-being, but, it has become possible with our busy lives to neglect our spiritual health. There's the old adage about the two things one shouldn't discuss in public - religion and politics. Well, the fact is that our culture is utterly consumed by politics, publicly and privately; it occupies our daily discourse in newspapers, on television, on the internet, and in personal conversation. It's inescapable. But religious or spiritual questions are another matter. Though these timeless questions are always there, like an elephant in the room, they're seldom discussed or pursued, even among friends. They make us uncomfortable, and for good reason. Yet they are most important - not to mention the most interesting, as they define our worldview and can offer a sense of the Infinite. 
As far as the organ is concerned, I suppose it reminds us of a philosophical, reflective bent of the human condition – something outside of ourselves, something ‘fixed’, something massive, something with an objectivity to it. While the instrument is capable in the hands of a sensitive organist to capture the most intimate human emotions – and it does this very well – its ability to penetrate the human soul to its very core is unique. When required, it can produce a marvelously terrifying effect, reminding us of the frailty and brevity of our lives. [...] 
Charles-Marie Widor, the 19th century French organist, once said, "To play the organ well, one must be filled with a vision of eternity". [...]

There are legitimate reasons to be troubled by the direction of our culture. It seems that, whenever we read articles concerning the state of classical music, they tend only to address the topic in a vacuum, separating it from a bigger reality. For a clearer perspective on the health or frailty of classical music, we must examine it under the umbrella of the humanities.

How are the humanities at large doing in our society? Music falls within this much broader category, and, unfortunately, there's much documentation confirming that humanitarian pursuits are in decline. Our society gives preference to scientists, doctors, lawyers, business leaders, technology, and so forth, but far less value is given to subjects that cause us to reflect deeply on the human condition. We must try to understand why this is the case. The humanities include literature, history, languages, art, philosophy, religion and music - subjects that carry us beyond the here and now. Artists and musicians must become more explicit in their charge to reawaken in our age that basic desire that we all have for transcendence. An art form is only secure if there are those willing to sacrifice for it. Fortunately, there is an army of dedicated, intelligent young musicians who understand what is at stake. Not just classical music, but the very soul of our culture. [...]

As far as music criticism is concerned, I think the decline of the role of music critics is indicative of a general cultural trend: the ability, or desire, to listen critically. This is the unavoidable result of a culture that does not emphasize a proper music education or its vast history. If you don’t value the education, you’re not going to value the subject very much, regardless of how it makes you 'feel'. Consequently, everything has been reduced to a matter of personal opinion, where all positions are equally valid, without any critical thinking, crucial listening, drawing distinctions, etc. – I mean, these are the building blocks of the Western tradition going back to the Greeks!

We seem to have turned our backs on these important principles and they must be regained. We should strive to increase our expectations for what music can do for us in our lives. Then we'll be less satisfied with what the latest pop-star puts out – that’s not to say that one doesn’t have the right to listen to it – but I believe these pop hits are woefully incapable of offering a glimpse of all that music has been and has the potential to be.

A greater awareness for the rich history of music is something that must be regained. It's disturbing whenever I meet highly educated individuals who know no music before the Beatles. They must be encouraged to dig and search for the sake of unearthing musical treasures of the past; for this music continues to resound with tremendous force. But one must listen.

Separately, a spirituality of the humanities. What are the implications of the humanities, of liberal learning? What does it do even in the natural plane of self-reflection as individuals and a culture?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Catechetical Pedagogy and Faith

When the Baltimore Catechism is brought up in certain Catholic circles, usually the result is polarizing. There typically is either a nostalgia for supposedly better times (pre-Vatican II) or a knee-jerk rejection of superficial catechetical pedagogy, a style of education also associated with the intense disciplinary practices of American sisters that has left a foul taste in many American Catholics' mouths years later.

If we would try to look at the issue clearly, then we would need to examine and define what we are talking about (this applies, of course, to any topic). We need to look at Faith, the Catechism, and a philosophy of education; finally, how do these associate?

Why has the Church produced catechisms throughout Her history? The catechism serves as a way to understand the Creed, and the Creed's purpose was to solidify and communicate the original experience of Christ that the Apostles had and were commanded to spread. Pure experience must eventually be codified into language, and the gap between language and reality will always leave something wanting. Experience itself does not need explanation although it may stir curiosity. Without guidance solidified through oral and written tradition, the experience will be lost. The Commandments illustrate this point very clearly: without the Commandments, man has no solid lampposts to guide his conscience. Although the Commandments are written on his heart by God even in the natural sphere, the tendency of man wounded by original sin is to silence the conscience. The Commandments then, far from being arbitrary commands, are anchors to help man on the way to genuine happiness.

Similarly, the experience of divine love in the Incarnation must be solidified so that others may anchor themselves onto God through faith. St. Paul tells us that faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). The preacher does not preach pure experience but the codification of this experience through the medium of doctrine. St. Thomas Aquinas explained in theological terms the operation of grace that occurs in the conversion process, which can be summarized as such (Summa Th., 2a2æ.6):

1. The person hears the words of the preacher.
2. The grace of God moves the hearer to accept the words as true.
3. The hearer cooperates with God's grace and accepts the words, making an act of faith.
4. What formerly existed simply as intellectual words signifying an unknown reality that was inaccessible to the hearer now, through the theological virtue of faith, grant the convert direct access to God as supreme Truth. The words thus accepted form channels linking the believer to God.

Faith externalizes in the form of words signifying a reality, which we believe, says Aquinas. That belief, powered by God's grace, is faith internalized.

The words and the reality, however, remain mysterious to us because they touch on God's very nature, which overpowers the grasp of reason. Hence, faith does not give us complete understanding of the realities contained in the Creed but simply access to those realities contained, a sharing in those realities. Faith says, "I believe even if I do not understand, but I believe for the best and most compelling reason: the authority of Truth itself. Perhaps I may begin to understand if God so allows." In fact, at least some understanding must be given in order to preserve the integrity of doctrine. Hence the catechism.

The catechism is an explanation of the Creed, of Sacred Revelation. Because Sacred Revelation transcends the power of reason, reason alone cannot attain to the truths contained therein. Therefore, unlike natural sciences, man cannot come to a true knowledge of the Divine without the aid of the Divine.

How the contents are organized is an editorial decision based on the audience and circumstances. The Catechism of the Council of Trent was written for parish priests in order to help their preaching; hence while being theologically rigorous, it is not overly technical. The Catechism of the Catholic Church was written for bishops; hence while being simple in its depth of coverage, its language is dense and not immediately accessible to regular, lay readers. The Baltimore Catechism was designed for children in school, and in fact we now know that the method of question and answer, call and response was the method used by the earliest Christians in teaching new converts and preparing them for Baptism.

Question and answer in fact form a very important part of human understanding. The Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan drew attention to the point that a question frames and determines the kind of answer one will receive. By changing the question and its frame, one can evoke a different answer even if the question is "essentially" the same in content. Those involved in social science research are showing the truth of Lonergan's point.

Why is question and answer especially important when it comes to doctrine? Because doctrine is a specific answer to a specific question, a question that is innate in the fallen condition of man, and a question that must be guided. No one would ever think to ask, "Who is Jesus Christ?" It presupposes that we know that there is a Jesus Christ to ask about. To ask what the purpose of life is presupposes a notion that there is a purpose at all and that we can know it.

Hence, while a question and answer format is in itself very simple, the frame provokes deep insight into the very nature of Sacred Revelation and reality itself. If we can ask these questions and get these answers, then we know something about God, reality, and ourselves.

What's the problem then? I think the problem is twofold: 1) guilt by association; and 2) the exaggerated separation of externalized and internalized faith.

First, guilt by association. Question and answer is one educational tool that can be combined with others. Just because it was combined with poor methods of teaching that happened to be in vogue in the early-to-mid twentieth century doesn't mean that question and answer itself is a bad thing. But now the Baltimore Catechism is associated with the Puritanical pedagogy of certain religious. But having examined and distinguished what is properly question and answer, it should be clear that one would have to do more work to say that question and answer itself is somehow bad pedagogy for teaching the Faith.

Second, the separation between "objective" and "subjective" faith. I've introduced two very poorly understood words and used them as replacements for "externalized" and "internalized." I think the latter pair are far better and more useful in a discussion of pedagogy. This is for another discussion however.

Everyone recognizes that faith can be lifeless, empty words on the lips of a person who acts just as a nonbeliever would. Real faith, faith that has been appropriated as one's own, internalized, transforms a person even if not immediately and completely. It is a first step towards sanctification. The Pharisees, for all their obedience to the laws and performance of sacrifice, were not justified in the eyes of God, for God desires mercy not sacrifice. Nevertheless, Christ commands His disciples to exceed the Pharisees in their righteousness. What does that mean then?

It means that we ought not to separate faith externalized and faith internalized. While the difference is a useful conceptual schema in theological discussion, in practical, concrete terms the two must be united. When I confess my belief, it is a belief in Christ, in the Trinity, in the Catholic Church. My belief is directed, concrete; my internal act of faith expresses itself externally in concrete directions because it has a concrete direction. The words signifying realities guide my act of faith. Hence a Catholic cannot be "spiritual but not religious." Faith embraces both in an inseparable unity: the spiritual soul of faith requires the religious body of doctrine; without each other there is only a disaster and vagueness that can be led in any direction, swept away by every wind of doctrine as St. Paul warns (Eph. 4:14). I don't just "believe"; I believe IN Christ. I don't just "adore"; I adore GOD.

Here it would be good to address the objection to the use of question and answer in teaching the faith: "The problem is that the faith remains superficial, just memorized answers to questions that mean nothing to the believer."

This objection is problematic on several levels. Let's examine each:

1. The objection implies a Pelagian view of faith, something that the believer can will and do independently of a gift of God. In fact, no matter what method one picks to hand on doctrine, ultimately the grace of God must intervene to breathe life into those words of the Creed.

2. We must distinguish between memorized answers as such and someone who intellectually adheres to doctrine without the grace of faith.

Memorized answers as such are not bad. In fact, many times they are the necessary foundation stones for further understanding. We ponder a fact over and over, examining it this way and that, until one day a deeper insight takes hold of us, and we see the fact from a higher perspective. Suddenly, we understand the fact, the reason why it is the way it is. If we were asked to demonstrate it, we would be able to without hesitation because we now understand what used to be a "brute datum." Now it is a vivid reality. Now we can ask further questions. Now we can lead others to ask questions.

But then where exists the problem? The only possible problem I can see is that such a method does not guarantee that the faith will be appropriated by the individual believer, will not be internalized and made one's own. Perhaps, even more strongly put, the method of teaching doctrine through question and answer discourages the individual from internalizing the Faith. How could this be?

Perhaps from our perspective, the rote and mechanical pedagogical process implies that doctrine is something sterile, brute data to be accepted in the way we memorize algebraic formulas and polyatomic ions.

But actually, doctrine is always such because it is mysterious. Without grace, which absolutely no pedagogical method on earth can somehow secure, doctrine remains sterile, empty words signifying an inaccessible reality. We cannot merit grace, no matter what method we use to teach doctrine, no matter how much we dress it up or try to encourage a person to "make it his own."

In fact, there is only one way to make faith one's own, and it is the way that faith itself dictates: total surrender to Truth.

Hence the objection betrays a subtle placing of the individual above Sacred Revelation. The individual is more important or most important in this interaction. What this practically amounts to is that the individual must fully understand, must have a so-called "informed opinion." In other words, the individual is to judge for himself what is acceptable and what isn't. This placing of the individual's judgment above Truth is one of the principles of Modern thought, which reduces the mystery of religion to a set of ethics and a moral imperative guided by the individual's conscience without regard for a higher authority, such as the Church.

Faith, however, as well as reason both suggest that we only really appropriate truth when we kneel before it in humility, not when we have grasped it so that we can feel empowered to accept or reject it. In fact, truth overpowers us, not vice versa. It overtakes us, shakes us, wakes us from our preconceptions. All facts are useless until their truth grasps us.

But if we do not know doctrine correctly, what are we adhering to? Better then to know doctrine correctly even if one doesn't accept it than to believe wrongly and not realize that one is placing one's faith in a false god.

Faith has a form, but its life is guaranteed not by the pedagogy that we utilize but by the free, uncontrolled, unmerited grace of God. Its form is both the external guideposts of doctrine and the internal assent of the individual, with or without understanding.

The doctrine points us to the reality, which is mysterious, which is overwhelming, which blinds us because of its brightness.

Cafeteria Catholicism/Christianity is appealing because the individual remains in control. Actual faith means an act of surrender to God and hence a giving up of control. Cafeteria Catholicism appeals because the individual understands the "food" of doctrine being placed on the "plate" of one's assent. Actual faith accepts the fact that the food is a given, given to be eaten for our nourishment whether we understand what it is or why it nourishes us or not.

Yes, it would be a pity if a person were forced to memorize doctrines that he had no desire to accept. It would be a pity if a person memorized doctrines but never really cooperated with the grace of faith. It would be a pity if a person was forced to memorize anything and never given a sense of why such a process was important. It would be a pity if a person was made to do these things and punished for what was, to a child, perfectly innocent behavior and carried resentment for the rest of his life.

That being said, these potential problems apply to any pedagogical method because when it comes to faith, there is no method that guarantees cooperation with grace or even its being given. The best that a pedagogy should do would be to prepare the individual to cooperate well, and only on this ground should pedagogy be adapted. It's not question and answer though; it's the standardization of factory thinking that became so prevalent in post-Industrial culture and infected how the Faith is taught. We know now that individuals must be appreciated for their individuality, and education serves the individual rather than the other way around.

But no matter how good or bad the education is, faith is ultimately God's gift. These two principles must be upheld simultaneously and in tension: 1) good education prepares an individual psychologically to accept and cooperate with God's grace, but 2) this grace is unmerited, which means that no method, no education can secure it better than any other in itself, and even being given a so-called good education is a grace that cannot be merited.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hilaire Belloc on Old Age

It is all due to Old Age, which is, I do assure you, the most horrible lingering (and incurable) disease ever pupped or calved. It's funny that the books lie so horribly about it! To read the books one would think that old age was a lovely interlude between the pleasures of this life and the blaze of Beatitude. The books represent Old Age seated in a fine old comfortable dignified chair, with venerable snowy locks and fine, wise, thoughtful eyes, a gentle but profound smile, and God-knows-what-and-all! But the reality is quite other. Old Age is a tangle of Disappointment, Despair, Doubt, Dereliction, Drooping, Debt, and Damnable Deficiency and everything else that begins with a D.


Source: Robert Speaight, Letters from Hilaire Belloc (London: Hollis & Carter, 1958), quoted in Joseph Pearce, Old Thunder (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2014), 355.

Hilaire Belloc on the Mood of Faith vs. Its Act

People said that [G.K. Chesterton] might come in at any time because he showed such a Catholic point of view and so much affection for the Catholic Church. That always seemed to me quite the wrong end of the stick. Acceptation of the Faith is an act, not a mood. Faith is an act of the will and as it seemed to me the whole of his mind was occupied in expressing his liking for and attraction towards a certain mood, not at all towards the acceptation of a certain Institution as defined and representing full reality in the world. There is all the difference between enjoying military ideas ... and becoming a private soldier in a common regiment.


Source: Joseph Pearce, Old Thunder (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2014), 253.

Accepted Sorrow & Happiness

One has to accept sorrow for it to be of any healing power, and that is the most difficult thing in the world ... A Priest once said to me, "When you understand what accepted sorrow means, you will understand everything. It is the secret of life."


Source: Maurice Baring, Darby and Joan, quoted in Joseph Pearce, Old Thunder (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2014), 334.

"Just Your Opinion"

In Western society (the society with which I am most familiar and in which I have grown up) there are a stock number of phrases the purpose of which is to dismiss others.

Sometimes dismissal is necessary, part of healthy boundaries—in job applications, when a person is looking to argue just to make a point, when there is some danger that one ought to avoid if one value's one's health.

Sometimes, however, dismissal is used unhealthily when it works against the pursuit of human flourishing as such.

Now, what human flourishing is requires conversation, dialogue, intelligence precisely because its notion is not self-evident but rather must be approached gradually.

Dismissal, then, works against this discussion; it relishes in solipsism, in brute individualism, in a radical ignoring of the other person.

"That's just your opinion"; "You're just being judgmental"; "That's bigoted." All of these statements betray a reaction to an opinion or sentiment strongly expressed. But there is nothing wrong with strong opinion as such on the condition that it is backed by argumentation and the dialectical process mentioned above. And even if strong opinion is not backed by rigor, it is hypocritical to dismiss it with a knee-jerk reaction.

Therefore, there must be more than simply—"that's just opinion." It must rather be: "that's your unfounded opinion," or "that opinion is wrong for these reasons x, y, and z." Two contrary opinions are not necessarily better than each other, and their butting heads do no good to humanity. Good is done when the dialogue is opened and encouraged.

A person, therefore, who dismisses someone else simply with "that's just your opinion" is showing that he is ensconced in a radically anti-human attitude even while he is dismissing what he legitimately believes to be anti-human itself! Sometimes, and this is a sad reality, the best way to deal with such people is to let them be, and that is, of course, a dismissal based on healthy boundaries. If they are not willing to dialogue, to explain, to understand, to humble themselves, to make themselves vulnerable, which is the essence of fruitful connection, nothing more can be done except to dismiss them precisely on the grounds that all has been done on one's end and that the ball is in their court and perhaps may forever stay that way.

We must respect free will but not necessarily the choices made by free will.

Hilaire Belloc on Discovering the Church

The Faith, the Catholic Church, is discovered, is recognized, triumphantly enters reality like a landfall at sea which first was thought a cloud. The nearer it is seen, the more it is real, the less imaginary: the more direct and external its voice, the more indubitable its representative character, its "persona," its voice. The metaphor is not that men fall in love with it: the metaphor is that they discover home ... It is the very mould of the mind, the matrix to which corresponds in every outline the outcast and unprotected contour [sic] of the soul. It is Verlaine's "Oh! Rome—oh! Mere!" And that not only to those who had it in childhood and have returned, but much more—and what a proof!—to those who come upon it from the hills of life and say to themselves, "Here is the town."


Source: Robert Speaight, The Life of Hilaire Belloc (New York, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1970), quoted in Joseph Pearce, Old Thunder (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2014), 246.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cardinal Manning on the Root of All Conflict

One particular phrase of Manning's so impressed the young Belloc that it changed forever the way he viewed the world of human affairs. The cardinal told him that all human conflict was ultimately theological, a "dogmatic assertion of truth," as Belloc described it, which bewildered him at the time but which "came to possess for me a universal meaning so profound that it reached to the very roots of political action."


Source: Hilaire Belloc, The Cruise of the Nona (London: Constable, 1925), quoted in Joseph Pearce, Old Thunder (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2014), 37.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Distinction: "Lifelong Catholic" vs. Living Catholic

There is really only one use for describing oneself as a "lifelong Catholic": a statement of chronological fact regarding one's self conception. In other words, it describes a fact of time—that the lifelong Catholic was baptized soon after birth, confirmed, received First Communion, etc., continued attending Mass throughout life, receiving sacraments, perhaps praying.

But what good is a label in itself? I can call attention to any other "chronological fact" regarding myself—I'm a lifelong brown-haired male. Or I can state a fact regarding how I view myself (self-conception), a view that may change with time; e.g. in high school I believed I was ugly because I had acne.

The label and the self-conception are morally neutral, psychological qualities. These qualities may be harmful or beneficial to our flourishing and striving for happiness. There is, however, no intrinsic point in any of these labels. The labels are spoken so as to be used, to set oneself in relation to something else. Hence labels, while neutral qualities in themselves, are always concretely employed in relation to something else; hence enters their political dimension.

However, I want to draw attention to how a person will call himself a "lifelong Catholic." Usually this label is spoken in order to give moral or political weight and authority to what is said; it serves as a sometimes-very-subtle power play, a badge of honor or pride, saying, "Look at me. I've lived this all my life. My opinion therefore is worth something."

But the problem is that being a "lifelong" anything doesn't guarantee mastery. One could be a lifelong entrepreneur, manager, woodworker, painter, etc. Length of experience certainly exposes one to more possibilities, but it in itself does not guarantee mastery. Mastery requires deliberation and intentionality, usually growing through a slow, heuristic process; sometimes, however, such deliberation draws out an intrinsic genius and leads to spontaneous leaps (punctuated growth rather than gradual).

Hence, the label "lifelong x" is an expression of unconscious pride. The label of the Saint is "I am a sinner; don't listen to me but to Christ, to the doctors, to the Church" (paradoxically in so doing, the Saints then become listened to themselves precisely because they submit their experience and knowledge to the greater tradition and judgment of the Church). The self-styled expert, or "lifelong Catholic," reveals himself to be a novice. If the "lifelong Catholic" would only realize that salvation and sanctification can be lost in a single moment, a single moral act, that salvation is not guaranteed, that the grace of perseverance must always be begged for, that the mystical life, just as with any art and virtue, must be advanced upon by calm and persevering deliberation that is oblivious to time and the growth of which is not set in proportion to the length of time that has passed, then perhaps that lifelong Catholic may actually become a living Catholic, which is the only kind of Catholic that is worth anything for glorifying God, working for the salvation of souls, and being saved.

Mastery Requires Awareness

It seems that higher levels of mastery require deeper levels of awareness, fine tuned to details that are otherwise completely unnoticed by lay folk. What is simply a wood chair to one is a Nakashima masterpiece by another who has the eyes to see. What is simply the same wall of choral sound to one is a vastly different sound "palette" to an experienced choir director. What is simply a nice book to one is a sign of profound dedication to the craft of typesetting to another. It could be said, then, that the refinement and growth of awareness forms one of the most necessary foundations for mastery.

Appreciation is a form of awareness—awareness of goodness in another or in a deed done. Gratitude is awareness. Joy is awareness of the presence of goodness and its possession. Humility is awareness of truth.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hilaire Belloc on Beauty, Love, and God

I think that beauty and love, and things which people generally look down upon as not stoic or heroic, are the essence of heroism and manly feeling, and this because they are the essence of God as we hear of Him and understand Him. I felt this in chapel today, that the light feeling which proceeds from love or something beautiful, is not a feeling that will pass, but the happiness of angels in the love of God. Have you ever felt that in one of those beautiful churches, Notre Dame or St. Ouen, how one loves the beauty around one so much that one is convinced that it was the grace of God, as well as man, that helped to build that church?


Source: Belloc Lowndes, The Young Hilaire Belloc (New York, NY: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1956), 20, quoted in Joseph Pearce, Old Thunder (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2014), 20.

A.W. Tozer on the Idolatry of Entertainment

A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart, the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.

If this is true (and I believe it is) then the present inordinate attachment to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.

Schleiermacher held that the feeling of dependence lies at the root of all religious worship, and that however high the spiritual life might rise, it must always begin with a deep sense of a great need which only God could satisfy.

If this sense of need and a feeling of dependence are at the root of natural religion, it is not hard to see why the great god Entertainment is so ardently worshiped by so many. For there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon courage to face existence.

No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things, if used with discretion, may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing, however, the all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again.

The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern men. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth.

And the ominous thing is that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, crowding out the long eternal thoughts which would fill the souls of men, if they were but worthy to entertain them. The whole thing has grown into a veritable religion which holds its devotees with a strange fascination; and a religion, incidentally, against which it is now dangerous to speak. For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was—a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability.

For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So, today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God.

Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate "producers" peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.

The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them stories. The love of stories, which is a characteristic of childhood, has taken fast hold of the minds of the retarded saints of our day, so much so that not a few persons manage to make a comfortable living by spinning yarns and serving them up in various disguises to church people.

What is natural and beautiful in a child may be shocking when it persists into adulthood, and more so when it appears in the sanctuary and seeks to pass for true religion. Is it not a strange thing and a wonder that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near, the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusements? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood and clamor for religious toys?

"Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned! For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim." AMEN. AMEN.


Source: A.W. Tozer, Root of the Righteous (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1955), 32–33.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas on the Purpose of Work for Man and God

"Man works in order to supply his wants: not so God, Who works in order to communicate to others the abundance of His perfection."

- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ 3.23.1 ad 2

Monday, September 1, 2014

The (Individual) in the Post-Christian, Celebrity Culture

­The Individual in the Post-Christian, Celebrity Culture

Originally published under "Anonymous" in Charter: Gonzaga University’s Journal of Scholarship and Opinion. No. 1 (Spring 2012): 19-24.

I have a close friend who lives in Canada, who was studying to become a music professor. A year ago his father, who worked in South Korea, disappeared without a trace. The mother hired private investigators to search for the missing father but in vain. My friend had to withdraw from his university to help his mother pay the bills. I don’t know how this crisis will turn out, but it raises the interesting questions that particularly press the modern, technological age, steeped in the celebrity culture: how do visible people become suddenly invisible, and how do invisible people become suddenly visible?

I want to look broadly at that question of visibility, invisibility and relate it to what may be called an authentic life of Christian spirituality. Perhaps one may smirk at that quaint phrase, “authentic life of Christian spirituality,” for the concept seems strangely alien. Even in a place like Marin county, Latinos waiting on sidewalks for work is not so alien; it’s what I have grown up seeing, at least. Rather, an authentic life of Christian spirituality strikes us as alien because as Arthur W. Hunt III noted, “The Christian conscience is fast fading.”[1]

The Christian worldview is fast receding, disappearing like the distant echo of a dark and overbearing past. What is replacing it? When Saints today seem seriously doubtful,[2] what gives color to an otherwise mundane life? Jim Carrey, on his regularly-updated Twitter page, put it pithily: “If future historians look bck 2 the blogs of our day 4 reference material it'll be a piss poor account of who we r. Or is that who we r ?;^\”[3] Or as Adorno and Horkheimer put it in the Dialectic of Enlightenment:

Talented performers belong to the industry long before it displays them; otherwise they would not be so eager to fit in. The attitude of the public, which ostensibly and actually favours [sic] the system of the culture industry, is a part of the system and not an excuse for it.[4]

That is, our culture would not exist without the “our.” We have produced this culture of superficiality,[5] sexism,[6] and materialist consumerism,[7] this culture that the intellectuals complain about (and the corresponding politicians who promise to do something about it but in fact are just as caught up in it as anyone else[8]), this culture in which every daily event of our lives becomes necessary and useless by oodles of social networking,[9] this culture in which we communicate everything and nothing at once, this culture that, for the sake of profit, abandons the so-called humanitarian values and rights that it supposedly champions,[10] this culture that we participate in to startling degrees, on the one hand criticizing its obvious vanity, but on the other hand participating (zealously) in it without a second’s thought. This situation is our reality, and to that extent it must be understood in order (if one wishes) to transcend it.

Francis Schaeffer, the Christian philosopher, predicted, “When the memory of the Christian consensus which gave us freedom within the biblical form is increasingly forgotten, a manipulating authoritarianism will tend to fill the vacuum.”[11] Politically, one may say that this authoritarianism has taken the form of the modern, secular state. Acknowledging truth to that claim, I wish, however, to go deeper, to the psycho-spiritual level. It’s easy to write about a feeling of mass existential aimlessness when one has had little-to-no direct experience with the hopelessness that suffocates the suicidal’s psyche. When one faces that very real question, “What is my purpose, if I have any at all?”—that question that brings us face-to-face with death—then one suddenly sees the mass illusion that constitutes our modern world, especially the celebrity phenomenon.[12] It is, as Carl Raschke observed, “a collective form of transference.”[13] It is a symptom that expresses itself through a fantasy mechanism, where “[f]antasy designates our ‘impossible’ relationship to the person or thing that we most desire.”[14] Hunt stated it this way: “We pour our own meaning into them [media/electronic images] and receive that meaning back,” and “The image exalts itself not only against words but ultimately against the transcendent Word (Logos)” (emphasis original).[15] Jacques Lacan put this dichotomy between seeing and hearing in this way:

The root of the scopic drive is to be found entirely in the subject, in the fact that the subject sees himself […] in his sexual member [….] Whereas making oneself seen is indicated by an arrow that really comes back towards the subject, making oneself heard goes towards the other.[16]

It is the authoritarianism of the narcissistic fantasy, the domination of ego in a world of atomic meaninglessness, the desperate projection of a “unique” mind where only matter is to be found, to be grasped fleetingly, like the latest intrigue or hit song, a jumble of stuff (meaning?) reducible to…. With the displacement of God, the fundamental fantasy of society becomes focused on the celebrity, promising what cannot be fulfilled, brokenness deified, a repetition through symptoms of that existential aimlessness, passed down in a way described so disconcertingly by Philip Larkin in his 1971 poem “This Be The Verse.”

This is the radical question: how can a human being with real, unique dignity disappear or appear so easily and inconsequentially in a world that raises the self to divine heights, that pursues the celebrity status with such desperate vigor? How can one so simply flicker out like a small star disappearing forever in the vast cosmos? I’m not so much asking how this phenomenon is actually possible but rather drawing attention to the shocking fact that it is happening. Consider the photograph collection of Belgian photographer Mishka Henner called No Man’s Land. Putting together a series of photographs through Google Map’s “Street View,” Henner stumbled upon, all across Europe, images of various lonely women by the roadsides… These women are prostitutes, victims of the European sex trade, utterly exposed all day and stripped of their womanhood and any decent dress, their stories unknown, untold, captured by the automatic recording process of the ubiquitous Google street cars.[17] Their faces, as with all faces in the Street View, have been eerily blurred out, further emphasizing their total isolation and anonymity. This phenomenon is possible with and because of our celebrity culture, which imprints its totalitarian stamp on everything[18] and leaves everything else—i.e. whatever is actually valuable but deemed otherwise by the culture machine—“to be discarded after a short while like empty food cans.”[19] The culture that emphasizes the pursuit of fame on a global scale inevitably will and has in fact created and unconsciously (if not consciously) encouraged an entire underworld of hellish slavery, a sub-culture symptomatic of modernity’s gluttonous hedonism and so-called progress. This sub-culture hides behind a very thin veil, and anyone who has eyes to see will indeed see the horrors produced, as a “by-product” (or in other words, as a “waste product”), by this celebrity culture of ours.

Now, obviously the basic cynical response is: “Dude, that’s the world. That’s life. It just happens.” I’m perfectly aware of this type of answer, but obviously that sort of answer is itself a symptom of the terse puerility of the culture machine and lazily encourages the vitality and “virility” of this impotent social state of affairs.[20] It’s the same sort of answer that regards a “facile” musical like Jesus Christ Superstar as “plain-and-simple entertainment,” but the insightful critic, whether approaching the celebrity culture from a political, economic, or psychological angle, never takes the output of the establishment at face value. The self-referential—“joking”—hypocrisy of The Simpsons and the satire of South Park are, similarly, mere cogs that keep the culture machine running while maintaining the passing smug satisfaction of the cynical masses who never go past the superficial.

Even though one must live in the world, there are several ways to be not of it. Perhaps the most repugnant solution to the modern person, even among those who desire to transcend materialist culture, is the authentic life of Christian spirituality mentioned above. Karl Löwith, summarizing Jacob Burckhardt’s view on modern Christianity, wrote,

Primitive and genuine Christianity stands in complete contrast to the standards of the world. […] “The humble surrender of self and the parable of the right and the left cheek are no longer popular.” People want to maintain their social sphere and respectability; they have to work and to make money; hence they cannot but allow the world to interfere in many ways with their traditional religion. “In short, for all their religiosity, people are not disposed to renounce the advantages and benefits of modern culture.[21]

Nietzsche famously had this to say:

You [Christians], however, if your belief makes you blessed then appear to be blessed! Your faces have always been more injurious to your belief than our [atheists] objections have! If these glad tidings of your Bible were written on your faces, you would not need to insist so obstinately on the authority of that book. (s.98)[22]

And Marx wrote this:

Does not every moment of your practical life give the lie to your religious theory? Do you think it is unjust to appeal to the courts if somebody cheats you? But the apostle says it is wrong. Do you offer your right cheek if somebody slaps your left cheek, or would you rather start a lawsuit? But the gospels forbid it. Do you not […] grumble about the slightest increase of taxes and become excited at the smallest violation of personal liberty? But it is said unto you that the sufferings of this saeculum do not matter in comparison with the future glory.[23]

Indeed, to any moderately perceptive person, the fact that many so-called “pious” Christians seem to have no grasp of true love is as obvious as the sun that shines. The lukewarm, inauthentic Christian, the “modern Christian” who has lost all conception of the eschaton and the existence of objective good and evil, will either experience true conversion or disappear, according to the terrible prophesy of the Jesuit Karl Rahner: “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.”[24] The Christian conscience, or consciousness, is fast fading, but I propose that it is the development of this consciousness in a person’s psyche that would allow them to transcend the celebrity culture.

The Christian response to the allurements of celebrity culture is quite simple:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live for ever [sic].[25]

St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “But we urge you, beloved, […] to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, […] so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one,”[26] The authentic Christian life is a quiet one, a humble one. In the eyes of the world, the Christian life is boring; that’s why the Romans made a sport out of killing Christians—it turned Christianity into something exciting.

The constant testimony of the mystics was something like this: I experienced a love in my heart so profound that I thought it would burst. This experience was deemed more valuable than anything else even their very lives. The mystics and martyrs bore witness to this same spiritual reality: it towers above the physical.[27] It is the tough work of mysticism that Christians, and all others, shy away from. They sense its power, its reality, and they are afraid. They balk, gawk, snicker, and cry out, “I can’t do that! That’s stupid. I’ll die if I give up [frivolous entertainments, such as certain TV shows, movies, sports, games, gambling, radio, or secular music, sweets and junk foods, soda, sexual promiscuity, coffee, Facebook and other useless forms of social networking, tobacco, habitual alcohol use, drug use, immodest dress, body piercings, useless reading, such as certain magazines, books, and newspapers not necessary for professional purposes, etc.]. Besides, that all sounds like Dark Age Puritanism!”—as if the accusation of Puritanism somehow reduced real spirituality to something confront-able and hence dismissible.[28] And that’s the point: genuine Christianity is uncomfortable; it dis-comforts. It dis-lodges our common perceptions and assumptions.[29] Forget about magick! Real Christianity is dynamite! Nietzsche mentioned the human tendency to spiritual inertia when he remarked,

At bottom, every human being knows very well that he is in this world just once, as something unique, and that no accident, however strange, will throw together a second time into a unity such a curious and diffuse plurality: he knows it, but hides it like a bad conscience why? From fear of his neighbour [sic] who insists on convention and veils himself with it. […] The human being who does not wish to belong to the mass must merely cease being comfortable with himself.[30]

C.S. Lewis also pointed out the awesome quality of authentic Christianity in a stirring passage on the nature of God from his book Miracles:

It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. ‘Look out!’ we cry, ‘it’s alive’. And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back—and I would have done so myself if I could—and proceed no further with Christianity. An ‘impersonal God’—well and good. […] A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? […] Supposing we really found [God]? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?[31]

The authentic Christian, who has found herself in God, seeks to disappear while helping everyone around her to find themselves amidst this mass of aimlessness. She no longer needs nor craves to be seen by you or anyone, for she is seen and loved infinitely by God. The authentic Christian’s presence is felt everywhere, yet she is oddly nowhere, just like Christ. The joy radiating from her smile lingers in an empty room somehow, and it affects those present even though she is gone. Her view of the world is refreshing and piercing yet never cynical because it is full of love for those caught up in that world. However, to achieve this sort of spiritual radiance, a transformation so radical must occur that to describe it here would be impossible. All I can say is a short prayer given to me by someone who I believe is an authentic Christian: “Without the grace of your love, Lord, I would have been swept away in the wickedness of this world.” Amen.

[1] Arthur W. Hunt III, “The Image,” Christian Research Journal 25, no. 3 (2003), http://www.equip.org/articles/the-image (accessed Nov. 26, 2011).
[2] MsAntitheist, “Mother Fucking Teresa was definitely NOT A SAINT!” YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI8A0VsgeuY (accessed Nov. 27, 2011).
[3] Jim Carrey, “Twitter entry for October 5, 2011,” Twitter, http://twitter.com/#!/JIMCARREY (accessed Nov. 25, 2011). Regarding the emoticon ?;^\, Carrey explains, “?;^} The question mark represents my hair, my natural curiosity, and my desire to be a curiosity ?B^•” (Twitter entry for October 26, 2011).
[4] Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Simon During (New York, NY: Routledge, 1999), 33.
[5] Cf. Lucas Cruikshank, “Fred’s YouTube Channel,” YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/user/Fred (accessed Nov. 28, 2011).
[6] Cf. Lisa Belkin, “After Class, Skimpy Equality,” The New York Times, Aug. 26, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/fashion/after-class-skimpy-equality-motherlode.html; cf. also a response to Belkin’s article: Jillian, “Response to After Class: Skimpy Equality. So…what is being taught?” Words of Wisdom from Worldly Young Women, http://ctywlp.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/response-to-after-class-skimpy-equality-so-what-is-being-taught/.
[7] Cf. the endless Black Friday horror stories that the media publishes; e.g. “Black Friday Shoppers Pepper-Sprayed in Calif.,” CBS News, Nov. 25, 2011,  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57331160/black-friday-shoppers-pepper-sprayed-in-calif/ (accessed 28 Nov. 2011).
[8] The most notorious example in our time is perhaps Silvio Berlusconi. Cf. John Hooper, “Silvio Berlusconi: A Story of Unfulfilled Promises,” The Guardian, Nov. 13, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/13/silvio-berlusconi-story-unfulfilled-promises; cf. also “Profile: Silvio Berlusconi, Ex-Italian Prime Minister,” BBC News Europe, Nov. 12, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11981754.
[9] I.e. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, vlogs, etc.
[10] E.g. Dove, which a few years ago promoted developing awareness of the negative and oppressive effects of the beauty culture on growing women, and Lynx/Axe, which is notorious for its commercials that promote gender-typing and sexism, are both owned by Unilever. The Dove campaign was, of course, launched in response to criticism towards the Axe commercials, but to me it seems that the entire affair is profit driven regardless of what Unilever says. Even the non-profit Foundation for a Better Life is suspect since it received funding from Philip Anschutz (cf. the Forbes profile of Anschutz: http://www.forbes.com/profile/philip-anschutz/), whose other financial investments are not so philanthropic.
[11] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 23.
[12] Regarding the fact that up until the advent of modernity every Westerner regularly thought about the reality of death—“memento mori”—and whether the individual’s soul was ready to face God, I think a very applicable painting to today’s situation would be Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors. Spend some time looking at the painting yourself without reading an analysis of it. See if you can find the two peculiar oddities that stand out among the wealth of the ambassadors depicted.
[13] Tom Ryan and Carl Raschke, “On Cultural Neuroses, Primal Screams, and the Psychology of Celebrity: An Interview with Carl Raschke,” The Other Journal, Jan. 25, 2011, http://theotherjournal.com/2011/01/25/1071/.
[14] Andrew Houston, “Views and Reviews: Celebrity as Fantasy Screen,” Canadian Theatre Review 141 (Jan. 2010), http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/canadian_theatre_review/v141/141.141.houston.html (accessed Nov. 28, 2011).
[15] Hunt, “The Image.”
[16] Jacques Lacan, “The Partial Drive and its Circuit” and “From Love to the Libido” in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981), 194–195.
[17] Mishka Henner, No Man’s Land, Apr. 22, 2011, Mishka Henner / Works website, http://mishka.lockandhenner.com/blog/?p=644 (accessed Nov. 28, 2011). Cf. also Marco Bohr, “Google Street View and the Politics of Exploitation,” Visual Culture Blog, http://visualcultureblog.com/2011/10/google-street-view-and-the-politics-of-exploitation/; and Jesus Diaz, “Murder Captured by Google Street View Car,” Gizmodo, http://gizmodo.com/5656497/murder-captured-by-google-street-view-car (accessed Nov. 30, 2011).
[18] Consider all the young women, especially those who are anorexic or bulimic, who struggle tragically against each other and society because of the demands of the beauty industry.
[19] Adorno and Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” 32.
[20] Fantastic examples of this attitude are related to and encouraged by, for example, the Jackass reality show with accompanying movies or Borat: Cultural Learnings [etc.]; cf. Adorno and Horkheimer’s insightful comment here: “The people at the top are no longer so interested in concealing monopoly: as its violence becomes more open, so its power grows. Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be art. The truth that they are just business is made into an ideology in order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce. They call themselves industries; and when their directors’ incomes are published, any doubt about the social utility of the finished products is removed” (Adorno and Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” 32).
[21] Karl Löwith, Meaning in History (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1949), 29-30.
[22] Friedrich Nietzsche, Assorted Opinions and Maxims, trans. R.J. Hollingdale, http://www.theperspectivesofnietzsche.com/nietzsche/nchrist.html (accessed Nov. 28, 2011).
[23] Löwith, Meaning in History, 46-47.
[24] Cf. Karl Rahner, “The Spirituality of the Church of the Future,” Theological Investigations, vol. XX, trans. Edward Quinn (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1981), 143-53.
[25] 1 John 2:15-17. Translation is the New Revised Standard Version.
[26] 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12.
[27] St. John of the Cross wrote: “Gustato spiritu, desipit omnis caro” (Ascent of Mount Carmel, 2.17.5), which translates roughly to, “Once I taste of the spirit, all carnal things become meaningless” (trans. Raymond L. Richmond, “Entertainment,” ChastitySF, http://www.chastitysf.com/q_entertain.htm (accessed Nov. 28, 2011)).
[28] I suggest that the accusation of Puritanism often comes from those who are themselves too comfortable. Cf. G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, ch. 6: “The Paradoxes of Christianity” (available online for free; e.g. here: http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/orthodoxy/ch6.html): “Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall. […] Perhaps (in short) this extraordinary thing is really the ordinary thing; at least the normal thing, the centre [sic]. Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad—in various ways.”
[29] Cf. Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2008).
[30] Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Challenge of Every Great Philosophy,” in Schopenhauer as Teacher from Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre, ed. Walter Kaufman, http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/nietzsche/1874/challenge.htm (accessed Nov. 28, 2011).
[31] C.S. Lewis, Miracles (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1996), 150.